To close out EA’s E3-adjacent EA Play news conference, BioWare walked the audience through a lengthy deep dive into Anthem, its Destiny-esque multiplayer shooter.
To begin, BioWare’s Casey Hudson, Mark Darrah, and Cathleen Rootsaert explained that the goal with Anthem is to avoid “diluting” the story by keeping it separate from action-heavy combat. You’ll go on missions that take place in a shared world where, for example, everybody experiences nighttime simultaneously, but then you’ll return to your base, which is a wholly single-player experience. There, you’ll talk to characters and do more traditionally BioWare-y things.
“This is where your story really lives and breathes,” said Darrah.
You will, however, be able to play the whole game solo if you want. BioWare wants multiplayer to be a “choice” that players make of their own accord.
As a rookie Freelancer, your goal will be to push back against the evil Dominion, a group of humans who are trying to turn a powerful item called the Anthem Of Creation—once used by a mysterious race called The Shapers to create the world—into a weapon. If all those impenetrable proper nouns don’t get Destiny fans salivating, nothing will.
In the meantime, though, you’ll also be trying to come to grips with the origin of the untamable world you inhabit. Nobody’s sure what its deal is or how humans—who seem woefully tiny in comparison to everything else—came to be part of it.
The presentation then shifted over to a gameplay demo in which four players, each flying around in specialized super suits, fought creatures called Scars in order to destroy the source of a nasty poision. In practice, it was like the Avengers if everybody was Iron Man. The ranger suit, for example, carried a general purpose jack-of-all trades arsenal, while the storm suit could blow shit up real good. Meanwhile, the colossus cleared a path for his teammates through explosive traps by ploughing right through them and absorbing the damage with heavy armor.
“You’re not your suit,” said Darrah, explaining that you can switch depending on your mood or the specific needs of particular missions.
The mission proceeded through phases, first with a high-flying outdoor fight with plenty of destruction and vertigo-inducing antics. The squad then soared through a more open area in pursuit of their goal. There, they encountered a world event monster—a skyscraper-sized “Titan”—but decided to swerve past it because they didn’t want to get the shit stomped out of them during an E3 demo.
From there, they passed through an underwater cave and eventually came upon an Anthem Of Creation relic. The relic was swarmed by Scars, which the squad took care of using the power of friendship. The ranger threw a frost grenade, which stopped enemies nearly-dead in their tracks. Then the colossus finished the job by opening fire with her heaviest artillery. At the end of it all, they “silenced” the relic, averting some kind of “disaster.”
Next, the squad followed a trail of acid gunk into a cavernous ruin where they hoped to find the source of the poison. There, they encountered a weird, gigantic Metroid-ass looking monster. Then the demo ended.
Just in case it wasn’t already clear that EA is no longer worshiping at the golden altar of ill-advised loot box monetization, BioWare added that Anthem won’t have any. There will be microtransactions, but they’ll be “strictly cosmetic.” There will also be ongoing releases of new content.
But no romances. Speaking with Game Informer, lead producer Mike Gamble said that the time-honored BioWare tradition of playing 12 dimensional genital chess with blue people won’t be part of Anthem.
“There are no romances,” Gamble said. “There are friendships. Some of the stuff we did with Mass Effect – the Citadel DLC specifically – there was a lot of friendship moments. You and Garrus sitting up, shooting – that kind of stuff, we want to lean into that. The romantic stuff, we’re moving away from that for Anthem.”
Anthem will be out on PC, PS4, and Xbox One on February 22, 2019.
Update 8:00pm: BioWare’s Mark Darrah has been answering a ton of fan questions on Twitter. Among the things he’s shared:
- You’ll have to be online to play.
- There’ll be no PvP at launch, because it allows them to “go broader on gear and weaopns with less worries about balance.” They may look at adding PvP down the road but have nothing planned.
- Your character will have voiced dialogue.
- You won’t just be able to fly around endlessly in your mech suit, you’ll have some flight restrictions.
- You can play story missions with 1-4 people.
- There will be matchmaking for co-op and Darrah seems to think it’s a pretty cool system. In fact, all endgame activities will have matchmaking.
- You’ll heal with health pickups, as opposed to a health regen system.
- Loot drops are instanced, so another player can’t steal your loot.
- There will be some sort of crafting system.
- The game will use dedicated servers.
- No local split-screen co-op.
- The “door is not closed” on adding romance options after launch.
- There are no viable pure melee builds as of now.
- And yes, it is a BioWare game.